Entering a sports event, like a triathlon, is a major decision. You’ll be dedicating a big chunk of your time leading up to the event on your training, and rest is an important part of your training.
Rest is essential so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For athletes, rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.
Many professional and endurance athletes talk about “intensity” and various types of training that target different levels of intensity. For the first time, or amateur, athlete, forget about that for the moment. If it’s your first, keep the intensity level to an average, and you can slowly build intensity with time and experience.
Most athletes know the importance of getting enough rest after exercising yet countless still over train and feel guilt-ridden for taking a day off. The body repairs and strengthens in the time between workouts, and continuous training can weaken even the strongest. The symptoms of overtraining often occur because of a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include:
– a feeling of general malaise
– feeling low or depressed
– decreased sports performance
– increased risk of injury.
A couple of nights of little sleep will not have much impact on performance, but getting insufficient sleep combined with overtraining can lead to subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and how you feel.
Getting a balance
Strike a balance between training and and rest. Take at least a day in a week to participate in a light activity such as yoga, gardening or an easy walk. Athletes competing in events such as a triathlon follow a pre-established training plan that amps up mileage over time. Cross-training can also help you prevent overtraining – if you are a runner, try a bike class occasionally or do yoga to improve flexibility and core strength.
In mild cases of overtraining, two days in a week could be enough to repair your muscles and body. If you are training for a triathlon, cut-down one of the trails or bicycle rides. You may fear you’ll lose your advantage, but when you return to full training, your body will be stronger and tougher.
How rest benefits your body and mind
The impact of your training builds when you rest. Building recovery time into a training programme is essential because the body adapts to the stress of exercise when you’re not exercising.
Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissue. Exercise and other physical activities cause changes in the body, such as muscle breakdown, depletion of energy reserves (muscle glycogen) and dehydration. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and help your tissues to repair. If there is insufficient time for repair the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.
Getting rest is good for your mind too. Often when training for an event your mind is full of thinking about the event, thinking about your training, thinking about what you’re eating; so give your brain a break! Research shows that meditation, walks, relaxing and getting at least eight hours of sleep increases productivity, improves your attention span and encourages creativity.
The mind and body functions better when given time to rest and recover.